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Finding the Right Veterinarian Match

Just as it is important to find the ‘right’ doctor for yourself, finding the ‘right’ veterinarian is also extremely important — especially since our furry family member(s) cannot talk to us.  The relationship that one has with their veterinarian is no different from any other doctor-patient relationship.

Doug and I have been searching for the ‘right’ veterinarian for little Victory.  Below are a list of questions we have found helpful in our quest to find the ‘right’ veterinarian match.

As a preliminary matter, I have found it helpful to interview possible veterinarians via phone first.  The veterinarians that we believe are a good fit, we set up an appointment to meet this veterinarian in person; tour the building; meet the other staff members; and we will see how the veterinarian interacts with Victory as well.

I also believe it is important for the human(s) (client) to be up front and honest with the prospective veterinarian and express what he/she is looking for and expecting from this relationship.

Outlined below are some questions you might want to consider asking a prospective veterinarian.


Questions to ask your prospective veterinarian:

1. You can begin by asking people you trust who has similar values to you who he/she recommends as a vet.  However, this can be tricky as each individual is different and each individual has different needs, expectations, values, etc.  You can also ask veterinary specialists who they recommend based on your criteria to help you as a starting point when determining who will be the best veterinarian match since specialist often times work closely with referring primary veterinarians on cases.

2. Ask the veterinarian how long he/she has been practicing surgery.

3. Ask the veterinarian’s philosophy and approach in practicing veterinary medicine, i.e., does the veterinarian like to work together as partners with the human (client)?  How does the veterinarian view his/her role?

4. Ask the veterinarian how he/she communicates with the human(s) (client), i.e., do you have direct access to the veterinarian’s e-mail address?; do you have access to the veterinarian directly via phone and/or e-mail after hours?; and how quickly are e-mails and telephone calls returned?

5.  Ask how you will be able to get in touch with the veterinarian after hours and on the weekends to ensure continuity of care for your furry family member.  This is vital information to obtain and understand so that you can appropriately get your questions and concerns answered in a timely manner.

6. Ask the veterinarian if she/he has office hours that will fit your schedule to ensure that you will be able to see him/her frequently for continuity of care.

7. Ask the veterinarian about his/her caseload.  Is this an extremely busy veterinarian/practice?  Is there enough time spent with you and your furry family member?

8. Ask the veterinarian whether emergencies cases that come in the office will impact your scheduled appointment, i.e., does the practice have adequate staff to address emergencies when they arise to ensure timely appointments?

9. Ask if the veterinarian is an owner of the practice.  This will give you insight to whether the veterinarian has management responsibilities in addition to practicing veterinary medicine.

10. Ask how many other veterinarians are in the practice with a similar philosophy that you can see during those times that your regular veterinarian is not available.

11. Ask if each veterinarian has a particular specialty that culminates a “body” of knowledge within the practice in order for vets to confer with one another on cases.

12. Ask the veterinarian if he/she performs surgeries, and if so, what type of surgeries he/she performs; and what type of cases are referred to a specialist/surgeon.  This varies from practice to practice, and it is a good idea to understand the surgeries and other specialized services (i.e., ultrasounds, x-rays, orthopedic procedures, etc.) that can and cannot be performed by the primary veterinarian, etc.

13. Ask if traveling board certified surgeons come and perform surgeries at the primary veterinarian’s office.

14.  Ask the veterinarian what labs each veterinarian uses.

15. Ask the veterinarian what other types of services are provided by the veterinarian/practice, i.e., therapy rehabilitation, ultrasound, grooming, etc.

16. Ask the veterinarian for references of existing clients to obtain further information from another source about the veterinarian and practice.

17. Ask for a thorough tour of the office/facility in order to give you an idea of the facilities, i.e., if you would feel comfortable leaving your furry family member at this office/facility to receive veterinary care.

18. Ask to meet the staff members at the practice.

19. If it is important to you, ask the veterinarian whether he/she/practice provides pro bono services for shelters and animal rescue groups.


When you get home after meeting the prospective primary veterinarian ask yourself the following:

1. Ask yourself how you feel, i.e., what does your gut instincts think?  Usually, your instincts are correct, so you should not ignore your instincts.

2. Did you feel like you can trust this veterinarian?

3. Do you feel like this veterinarian is through, smart, and competent?

4. Were you impressed with the care received by your furry family member?

5. Did your furry family member seem comfortable with the veterinarian?

6. Did you feel rushed?

7. Did you get all of your questions answered?

8. Did you feel comfortable?

9. Did the veterinarian seem flexible (conversely, did the veterinarian seem rigid) in his/her approach?

10. Did the veterinarian explain everything in easy to understand terms?  Did the veterinarian discuss and talk through all of your treatment options?

11. Was the vet compassionate towards you and your furry family member?

12, Was your wait time acceptable?

13. Were the facilities new, clean, with up-to-date equipment?

14. Was the staff friendly and nice?

15. Speak to the other client references provided by the veterinarian to obtain another source(s) of information.

16. Check online reviews to see what others have to say about the veterinarian and practice to obtain a general impression of the practice.

17. Remember, if you do not feel that it is a good fit with a particular veterinarian, you can change at any time and have your furry family member’s records transferred.

I hope that you find some of these questions and considerations helpful concerning the veterinary care of your furry family member(s) — especially for those of you who have recently moved or are contemplating changing veterinarians.

Additionally, if you are looking for how to find and vet a veterinary surgeon, I wrote a previous blog post about vetting your veterinary surgeon here.


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